Even in the early 1980s the “rubber bumper” MG sports cars were viewed as not quite authentic. The original MG Midgets had a cute simplicity. I had two MG Midgets. Both were of the 1500cc Triumph engine “rubber bumper” variety. The bumper was a change to meet regulations for export to the US car market. To some enthusiasts this was an ugly and unnecessary adornment to a much-loved traditional British sports car.
The Midget was an affordable little sports car that was “modern” for the 1970s. It was fun and straightforward. Nothing complicated. Eminently repairable. The car was made for the twisting and turning back roads of Somerset and Dorset. Those hidden single-track roads with grass growing down the middle and shaggy green hedges that overhang.
Both with the silky yellow one and the sharp black one, I had a couple of incidents.
One was hurtling down a road with steep dirt banks on either side. Now, that’s fine when there’s plenty of visibility and the roads are dry. In this case the narrow lane, linking farms and villages was regularly plastered with mud. Cows were herded up and down the road on their way to and from milking. When applying a car’s brakes hard on a surface like that the results are likely to be not what you want. Slipping and sliding is going to happen, and it did.
My cherished yellow MG hit the bank and didn’t stop immediately. It slid along the road on its side slowly soaking up its energy and leaving me watching the sky go by through my side window. Not a nice feeling. As the car stopped, hanging on my seatbelt, my adrenaline kicked in. I was out of there like a shot. Pushing the driver’s door up into the air, I climbed out and surveyed the damage.
Both my pride and the car were wounded. Fortunately, not as much as I feared. Surprisingly, the car was relatively easy to push back onto its four wheels. It drove without a problem. What was a problem was a nasty rash of scrapes and piles of mud. Yes, I was lucky. Such an “incident” with a soft-top car could have been extremely unpleasant if the car had gone all the way over. My MG didn’t have a roll bar.
Another incident that was a real heart stopper happened on a motorway. This time it was unavoidable. Driving west on the M40, late one night, what I remember is a bright light to my left. This was the car’s headlamp beam reflected off a running deer that bounced off the car’s wing. There was an instantaneous flash and then a loud thump. At the time I had no idea what I’d hit. In shock, I slowed and stopped the car on the motorway hard shoulder. It was a cold drab wet night. Much the worst of times to be stuck on the side of a motorway. I got out and walked around the car. Despite the drama of the event the car looked relatively unscathed. A dented left wing.
By the time I’d stopped I was well ahead of the place where the impact took place. My instinct was that I needed to tell someone what had happened. Maybe there was a dead or dying animal on the embankment way back behind me. Seeing the car was drivable, I set off to find a telephone. No mobile phones then. Eventually, I got to inform the police and get the car patched up to continue my journey westward to Cheltenham.
There was a lot of enjoyable happy driving of my little sports car. However, I have to say, for all the fun a 1970s MG Midget is not a good car to have any kind of serious incident. Those were different times and I have been lucky.